Elders and Communication (2): Gathering Information for a Decision

By Ron Halbrook

In an effort to improve their communication with the church, the elders here requested that the letter published below be sent to each family. The idea of some schedule changes discussed in the letter had been offered at a meeting of the elders with the other men of the congregation. Sometimes elders hesitate to conduct open meetings of this kind because they have bad memories of brethren bickering and haggling in open meetings conducted before elders were appointed. Such meetings can be productive if the elders preside and lead them properly. In six years here, there has not been an untoward incident of any kind in our open meetings. When brethren are accustomed to such meetings properly conducted on a regular basis, rather than being called only when the kettle has reached a boiling point, even criticisms and complaints can be handled in a more orderly fashion. Suggestions may be offered in these meetings which help to solve problems while they are small and before they reach the size where they provoke confrontations, bitterness, and factions.

This letter makes it clear that the elders are not forfeiting their God-given duties to the changing whims of a ballot box. The letter also makes it apparent that the elders are trying very hard to take into account the needs and wants of the church as a whole. There is no desire – or even appearance of a desire – to impose an arbitrary decision purely to suit the whims of the elders. When the elders announced their decision, it was obvious to those who agreed and to those who disagreed with the new schedule that the elders had been fair and open in the process of reaching a conclusion. Such a letter is certainly not necessary in making every decision, but it can be a valuable tool of open communication from time to time.

Letter from the Elders to Each Family in the Church at West Columbia

Dear Brethren,

The elders are continuing their efforts to maintain good communication with the church. This letter is being sent to every family in order to gather information on a suggestion offered by some of our men in the recent quarterly meeting. It was suggested that we might change the time of some or all of our assemblies.

This letter is not a ballot and the elders are not going to make decisions by asking you to vote. The decision will not be based on “majority rule” or “minority rule” but upon what we believe to be in the best interest of the church as a whole. As one part of gathering information before we make a decision, we want a response from each family and so we are asking you to return this letter. We want to consider the preference and convenience of the church as a whole. We want to know whether a change in the time of a service will work a hardship on anyone or make it impossible for them to come.

With each change suggested by some of the men, you will see the reason given. When you indicate your preference, please give the reason listed fair consideration and then feel free to indicate a reason for your preference if you wish to.

1. Some suggest an earlier time for Sunday morning services is better. They feel fresher and more alert earlier, which helps them get more out of the services. Children might do better if services did not run close to the noon meal time. There would be more time left for afternoon visits, trips, etc.

Check Your Preference for Sunday Morning Services:

_____ 9:00 A.M. Bible class, 10:00 worship

_____9:30 A.M. Bible class, 10:30 worship

_____ 10:00 A.M. Bible class, 11:00 worship.

If you wish to, give reasons for your preference:

2.Those who wish to will gather for a special 30 minute session on Sunday evenings before the regular worship period. One week the time will be devoted to memory work and other training for children (seated on the first two or three rows); the next week, the time will be used for our men to work on Bible reading, short lessons, leading songs and prayers. We will alternate these sessions week after week.

Check Your Preference for the Sunday Evening Services:

______ 5:30 P.M. session, 6:00 P.M. worship.

______6:00 P.M. session, 6:30 P.M. worship.

Some of the men prefer 6:00 P.M. session and 6:30 P.M. worship along with 9:00 A.M. classes and 10:00 A.M. worship to give a longer afternoon and time for supper before services. If you wish to, give reasons for your preference:

3. Someone suggested that since it gets dark earlier now, we might consider having Wednesday service at 7:00 P.M. through the winter, but this might make it hard for some people to attend after work. Check One: _____ 7:00 P.M.; ____ 7:30 P.M. Thank you for your cooperation and suggestions! Please sign.

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 18, p. 557
September 20, 1990